September 2020. Another month in what is probably the most disruptive year of this generation. Out of all the months and years, I took the bold step to start my internship abroad now. Read more about how you could prepare for a similar journey later here.

Even though the pandemic is in full swing and changes happen, some things probably won’t change so soon. Things like the office tour and your excitement right before the first day of work.

But let me start with the beginning. 

Arriving in my host country

My arrival in Belgium was pleasant and not very eventful. I stayed in self-isolation due to the country’s regulations, for a full week. This left me however with more time to reflect on the goals that I had set prior to my arrival. I designed my next year, in detail, setting a clear image of how I wanted to see myself at the end of this experience. For sure, I wanted to be more confident and outspoken: two characteristics I did not display on my first day of work!

First day at work

The excitement before the first day of work suddenly turned into a rush of different emotions and thoughts. “Will I be good enough?”, “Will I finish my tasks on time?”, “Will they judge me if I ask a stupid question?”, “Why am I even here?” were some of the thoughts running through my mind, while I was given a harmless office tour and explanation of how things work around the office. I had never felt imposter syndrome as much as I did right now. However, I reminded myself that if I made it so far to actually be here, then it means they saw in me the potential to bring value to the company.

The unusual onboarding

2020 is the year of working from home, and this was no exception. Although my first day of work was in the office, it was pretty much also my last day at the office for now. The unusual and challenging part is the onboarding process. It is simply not the same when it comes to learning about processes and what your exact responsibilities are and how to execute them. There are always more questions but less time. However, I was blessed with patient colleagues, who are willing to give up some of their time, to teach me more. 

Discovering places

Not only did I try to get accustomed to my new workplace, but also to the new city in which I will stay for the next year. Whenever I had some spare time, I would go for a short walk discovering a new neighborhood. One thing that I noticed is that each part of the city has its own style and feel to it. I surrounded by dazzling lights and crowded streets, and just a few steps further I entered a tranquil but charming area.

Later on, restrictions made it difficult to explore more, but that gave me time to reflect and show gratitude. 
I learned to be grateful for the opportunity to learn something new that will benefit my future career. Not only that but how being away from home and working in an international environment shapes my way of thinking and changes perspectives.

Showing gratitude…and a positive attitude

What I am living in is not the experience most of us imagine, or want to have. However, it is still my unique experience and it is one that makes me a better version of myself. For this reason, I wanted to have my international internship in the first place. I couldn’t be more grateful to have the hardships I currently encountered and am still encountering because they are an opportunity for me to become more solution-oriented, more resilient, and a better critical thinker. 

In the end, leadership is also about doing your best no matter what context you are in.

This is the introduction to my next chapter in this book called “Life”. How do you envision yours if you plan and get ready for the future with AIESEC?

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